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posted on 21 September 2015

August 2015 Existing Home Sales Headlines Say Sales Down. Home Price Growth Rate Continues to Slow.

Written by Steven Hansen

The headlines for existing home sales say "home sales in August lost some momentum to close out the summer". Our analysis of the unadjusted data shows that home sales were soft - but that the rolling averages did improve. Overall, existing home sales appear to continue in the long term improvement trend channel..

Econintersect Analysis:

  • Unadjusted sales rate of growth decelerated 6.1 % month-over-month, up 5.4% year-over-year - sales growth rate trend improved using the 3 month moving average.
  • Unadjusted price rate of growth decelerated 0.2 % month-over-month, up 3.0 % year-over-year - price growth rate trend is modestly slowing using the 3 month moving average.
  • The homes for sale inventory insignificantly improved this month, remains historically low for Augusts, and is down 1.7% from inventory levels one year ago).

NAR reported:

  • Sales down 4.8 % month-over-month, up 6.2 % year-over-year.
  • Prices up 4.7 % year-over-year
  • The market expected annualized sales volumes of 5.400 to 5.600 million (consensus 5.50) vs the 5.31 million reported.

Unadjusted Year-over-Year Change in Existing Home Sales Volumes (blue line) - 3 Month Rolling Average (red line)

z existing1.PNG

The graph below presents unadjusted home sales volumes.

Unadjusted Monthly Home Sales Volumes

z existing2.PNG

Here are the headline words from the NAR analysts:

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales in August lost some momentum to close out the summer. "Sales activity was down in many parts of the country last month — especially in the South and West — as the persistent summer theme of tight inventory levels likely deterred some buyers," he said. "The good news for the housing market is that price appreciation the last two months has started to moderate from the unhealthier rate of growth seen earlier this year."

"With sales and overall demand higher than a year ago and supply mostly unchanged, low inventories will likely continue to limit options for those looking to buy this fall even with the overall pool of buyers shrinking because of seasonal factors," adds Yun.

"When the Federal Reserve decides to lift short-term rates — likely later this year — the impact on mortgage rates and overall housing demand will likely not be pronounced," says Yun. "With job growth holding steady, prospective buyers can handle any gradual rise in mortgage rates — especially if today's stronger labor market finally leads to a boost in wages and homebuilding accelerates to alleviate supply shortages and slow price growth in some markets."

NAR President Chris Polychron says Realtors® worked hard over the summer to prepare for the Oct. 3 implementation of Know Before You Owe, also known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule. "A large majority of Realtors® have taken some form of training5 to prepare for the new disclosure requirements," he said. "As the ruling goes into effect next month, communication is crucial between all parties involved in a real estate transaction to ensure consumers get to closing seamlessly and without delay. NAR will monitor the progress of the rule in the weeks ahead and will share any concerns that arise as part of our continued partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

Comparison of Home Price Indices - Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue line, left axis), CoreLogic (green lin.

z existing3.PNG

To remove the seasonality in home prices, here is a year-over-year graph which demonstrates a general improvement in home price rate of growth since mid-2013.

Comparison of Home Price Indices on a Year-over-Year Basis - Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue bars), CoreLogic (yellow bars) and National Association of Realtors three month average (red bars)

z existing5.PNG

Econintersect will do a more complete analysis of home prices when the Case-Shiller data is released. The graphs above on prices use a three month rolling average of the NAR data, and show a 4.6% year-over-year gain.

Homes today are still affordable according to the NAR's Housing Affordability Index.

Unadjusted Home Affordability Index

This affordability index measures the degree to which a typical family can afford the monthly mortgage payments on a typical home.

Value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment. For example, a composite housing affordability index (COMPHAI) of 120.0 means a family earning the median family income has 120% of the income necessary to qualify for a conventional loan covering 80 percent of a median-priced existing single-family home. An increase in the COMPHAI then shows that this family is more able to afford the median priced home.

The home price situation according to the NAR:

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in August was $228,700, which is 4.7 percent above August 2014 ($218,400). August's price increase marks the 42nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

According to the NAR, all-cash sales accounted for 22% of sales this month.

The percent share of first-time buyers rebounded to 32 percent in August, up from 28 percent in July and matching the highest share of the year set in May. A year ago, first-time buyers represented 29 percent of all buyers.

All-cash sales decreased slightly to 22 percent of transactions in August (23 percent in July) and are down from 23 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 12 percent of homes in August, down from 13 percent in July and unchanged from a year ago. Sixty percent of investors paid cash in August.

Unadjusted Inventories are below the levels of one year ago.

Total housing inventory at the end of August rose 1.3 percent to 2.29 million existing homes available for sale, but is 1.7 percent lower than a year ago (2.33 million). Unsold inventory is at a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.9 months in July.

Unadjusted Total Housing Inventory

z existing4.png

Caveats on Use of NAR Existing Home Sales Data

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a trade organization. Their analysis tends to understate the bad, and overstate the good. However, the raw (and unadjusted) data is released which allows a complete unbiased analysis. Econintersect analyzes only using the raw data. Also note the National Association of Realtors (NAR) new methodology now has moderate back revision to the data - so it is best to look at trends, and not get too excited about each month's release.

The NAR re-benchmarked their data in their November 2011 existing home sales data release reducing their recent reported home sales volumes by an average of 15%. The NAR stated benchmarking will be an annual process, and the 2010 data will need to be benchmarked again next year.

Also released today were periodic benchmark revisions with downward adjustments to sales and inventory data since 2007, led by a decline in for-sale-by-owners. Although rebenchmarking resulted in lower adjustments to several years of home sales data, the month-to-month characterization of market conditions did not change. There are no changes to home prices or month's supply.

Existing home sales is one area the government does not report data - and it is easy to assume that an organization whose purpose is to paint the housing industry in a good light would inflate their data. However, Econintersect is assuming in its analysis that the NAR numbers are correct.

The NAR's home price data has been questioned by others also. However, Econintersectanalysis shows a very good home price correlation to Case-Shiller, CoreLogic's HPI, and LPS, especially when three-month moving averages are used - as shown in the graph earlier in this article.

Econintersect determines the month-over-month change by subtracting the current month's year-over-year change from the previous month's year-over-year change. This is the best of the bad options available to determine month-over-month trends - as the preferred methodology would be to use multi-year data (but the New Normal effects and the Great Recession distort historical data).

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